Beginning Thesis 101

Doing a senior thesis can feel a lot like walking around with an anchor, barnacles and all, tied to your back. It absorbs all your spare minutes and then some, ties your brain in a knot, and slowly compresses your social life until you realize the last time you had a girl’s night was two months ago. Of course, it can also be an intellectually and creatively rewarding experience. It is an opportunity for us to put what we’ve learned into practice and come out with a big…something at the end. Personally, I’ve been working on my first novella. I’m midway through the rough draft and it’s about fifty pages, the longest thing I’ve ever written. Keeping in mind that I’m only at the beginning of the process, here are some tips that will hopefully make it easier for you than it was for me.

1.)    Start early. It can take weeks to find a director and a reader, let alone start writing it. Your adviser doesn’t always do this so you may have to ask around. Make sure you’re working with professors you’re comfortable with.

2.)    Meet with your director often. You really don’t want to find out fifteen pages into it that they think you should be doing a completely different topic. I had to scrap twenty pages of research notes because they no longer fit with the context of my novella. It was painful.

3.)    Apply for summer research. Every year UPS offers summer research stipends, which are about $3250 a piece. If you get one of these stipends you can take the summer to focus entirely on your thesis. I received one for the summer of 2015. As a college student with a minimum of ten things on my to-do list, it is going to be a real blessing. I can take my time and make my thesis the best it can be.

4.)    Revise. Then revise again. Repeat. Good writing isn’t written it’s rewritten.

5.)    Choose a topic that you’re passionate about. There will be nights when you really don’t want to work on your thesis. That forcing yourself to write will feel like dragging yourself to an eight o’clock organic chemistry class. This makes those nights easier.

So this is what I’ve learned so far. Also, apparently I need to add more setting description. My novella currently sounds like it’s taking place in a vacuum. But that’s what second drafts are for. The first draft is just to get words on the page. Anything beyond that is a bonus. So good luck and remember; it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be there.

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About lmcginnis

I'm a senior here at UPS . I'm working towards an English major and a Spanish minor. I love any kind of creative writing; I'm president of the Writers Guild. I'm working on completing my thesis, a novella titled "Like Butterflies." It's about a witch-figure who can take away people's memories. In my free time, I like to practice karate and read Agatha Christie.